Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “[Estelle Anna Lewis],” manuscript fragments, about 1848


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞


[fragment 1:]

[[. . .]] grace and dignity of her form, and the nobility of her manner. She has auburn hair, naturally curling, and expressive eyes of dark hazel. Her portrait by Elliot, which has attracted much attention, is most assuredly no flattering likeness, although admirable as a work of art, and conveying a forcible idea of its accomplished original, so far as regards the tout ensemble.

At an early age Miss Robinson was allied in marriage to Mr. S. D. Lewis, attorney and counsellor at law; and soon afterwards they took up their residence in Brooklyn, where they have ever since continued to reside — Mr[[.]] Lewis absorbed in the labors of his profession, as she in the pleasurable occupations connected with Literature and Art.

Her earliest efforts were made in “The Family Magazine,” edited by the well-known Solomon Southwick of Albany. Subsequently she wrote much for various periodicals — in chief part for “The Democratic Review”; but her first appearance before the public in volume-form, was in the “Records of the Heart”, issued by the Appletons in 1844. — The leading poems in this, are “Florence”, “Zenel”, “Melpomene”, “Laone”, “The Last Hour of Sappho”, and “The Bride of Guayaquil” — all long and finished compositions. “Florence” is, perhaps, the best of the series, upon the whole — although all breathe the true poetical spirit. It is a tale of passion and wild romance, vivid, forcible, and artistical. But a faint idea, of course, can be given of such a poem by an extract; but we cannot refrain from quoting two brief passages as characteristic of the general manner and tone:

Morn is abroad; the sun is up;

[fragment 2:]

The dew fills high each lily’s cup;

Ten thousand flowerets springing there

Diffuse their incense through the air

And smiling hail the morning beam:

The fawns plunge panting in the stream,

Or through the vale with light foot spring:

Insect and bird are on the wing,

And all is bright, as when in May

Young Nature holds a holiday.

[fragment 3:]

The waves are smooth, the wind is calm

Onward the golden stream is gliding

Amid the myrtle and the palm

And ilices its margin hiding.

[fragment 4:]

[[. . . Maria]] Brooks’ “Zophiel” so great a favorite with the critics. “The Child of the Sea “ is, of course, by far the more elaborate and more artistic composition, and excels “The Broken Heart “ in most of those high qualities which immortalize a work of art. Its narrative, also, is more ably conducted and more replete with incident — but to the delicate fancy or the bold imagination of a poet, there is an inexpressible charm in the latter.

The minor Poems embraced in the volume published by Mr. Putnam, evince a very decided advance in skill made by their author since the issue of the “Records of the Heart.” A nobler poem than the >>following<< >>”Lament of<< <”La Vega”> could not easily be pointed out. Its fierce energy of expression will arrest attention very especially — but its general glow and vigor have rarely been equalled.

[fragment 5:]

Among the author’s less elaborate compositions, however, “The Angel’s Visit,” written since the publication of her “Child of the Sea,” is, perhaps, upon the whole, the best — although “The Forsaken” and “La Vega” are scarcely, if at all, inferior.

[fragment 6:]

In summing up the autorial merits of Mrs. Lewis, all critical opinion must agree in assigning her a high, if not the very highest rank among the poetesses of her land. Her artistic ability is unusual; her command of language great; her acquirements numerous and thorough; her range of incident wide; her invention, generally, vigorous; her fancy exuberant; and her imagination — that primary and most indispensable of all poetic requisites — richer, perhaps, than >>that of<< any of her female contemporaries. But as yet — her friends sincerely believe — she has given merely an earnest of her powers.


Notes:

The manuscript fragments are written with brown ink on blue paper.

Fragments 1 and 2: A full page and a fragment, both in the Gimbel Collection of the Philadelphia Free Public Library. There is a ragged edge between these fragments, but the text, as printed by Griswold, clearly forms a contiguous block.

Fragment 3: Four lines, described by Moldenhauer, 1973, p. 23, item 12. There are other manuscript fragments about Mrs. Lewis in the Koester collection on blue paper, but these appear to be from the Democratic Review article on Mrs. Lewis, 1848. These four lines of her poem “The Forsaken” were not quoted in that article, but do appear in the 1850 text printed by Griswold. (In the Griswold article, this text appears on page 243.)

Fragments 4 and 5: At the side of fragment 4 is the note: “Poe’s writing.” At the top of fragment 5 is the note: “E. A. Poe’s writing; he was a friend of Mrs. Lewis.”  (In the Griswold article, the text of these fragments appear on page 248-249.) Both fragments are now in the Huntington Library, San Marino, California. Fragment 5 is listed, and quoted, as item 438 in the Anderson Sale of the Myndese library, Oct. 28, 1909, where it is incorrectly described being part of the article which appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger for September 1848. (The sale price was $40.) At the top left corner of fragment 5 appears a number 5, possibly written as a page number. In July 2010, fragment 5 was noted as having been purchased by Peter Harrington (London), along with a copy of The Raven and Other Poems (Wiley & Putnam, 1845), rebound in Brown morocco by Stikeman & Co about 1900.

Fragment 6 - Four lines inserted with a copy of The Raven and Other Poems (New York: Wiley & Putnam, 1845), rebound in full olive green crushed levant moracco, gold tooled, with one of the original covers bound in at the end, by Stikeman. This book was sold at auction by the American Art Association, as item 495, on March 16, 1927 for $160. The text of the fragment is quoted in Book-Prices Current (London), 1927, p. 711, where it is incorrectly described being part of the article which appeared in the Southern Literary Messenger for September 1848. The text only appears in the version printed by Griswold in 1850.  (In the Griswold article, this text appears on page 248.)


∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

[S:0 - MS, 1848] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Criticism - Estelle Anna Lewis (Text-A)